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‘We feel like we can beat any opposition’

The hard-hitting Pakistan all-rounder, Faheem Ashraf, recently shot to instant fame in a game against ...

‘We feel like we can beat any opposition’

The hard-hitting Pakistan all-rounder, Faheem Ashraf, recently shot to instant fame in a game against Sri Lanka when he became the first Pakistani bowler to take a hat-trick in a T20I. His talent had already been recognized during the victorious Champions Trophy campaign and he continues to re-emphasize his credentials as a potential successor to one of Pakistan’s top all-rounders, Abdul Razzaq.

In an exclusive interview, Faheem Ashraf spoke on a number of topics including his dramatic rise in stature since the warm-up game against Bangladesh in the Champions Trophy, his emotions and the advice he received when he achieved the hat-trick against Sri Lanka, how he feels about the confidence that the Pakistan coaching staff and especially Azhar Mahmood have in his abilities and why he feels that Pakistan will be strong contenders for the title in the 2019 World Cup.

Q: These past few months must feel like a dream for you?

Faheem Ashraf: Yes absolutely. A few months ago, only my coaches, team mates and friends really knew about me. Hardly anybody had heard my name, but now due to the Almighty many people have heard of me. The warm-up match at the Champions Trophy against Bangladesh and then the recent hat-trick against Sri Lanka have really boosted me and made people recognise my name.

Q: Many people said, “Faheem who?!” when you were named in the Champions Trophy squad. Did you feel you had a point to prove during that tournament and thereafter?

FA: That tournament will live in the minds of all of the squad forever. Many people did not know who I was when my name was announced in the squad, but the warm-up match against Bangladesh made people say Faheem Ashraf instead of Faheem who?! When I was about to go out to bat against Bangladesh at Edgbaston, the coaching staff said to me, go out there and just play your natural game and don’t worry about the scoreboard. The pitch was true and I went out there and played my natural game and that worked. We were in a bad position, but we turned it around and eventually won when all seemed lost. I guess you could say that was the turning point for me.

Q: To have been asked to make your international debut in a high-profile match against Sri Lanka at the Champions Trophy must have been quite nerve-wracking?

FA: I went out there with the mindset of treating it like any other match. My team mates and the coaching staff told me to go out there and enjoy myself and just do my best. The confidence in the team throughout the tournament after the first match was sky-high. I was satisfied with 2 wickets against Sri Lanka, but I felt I conceded a few too many runs and my run-out is definitely one to forget. It was a match that we looked like we had lost, but that self-belief pulled us through and it was a sensational match to make my Pakistan debut in.

Q: Describe what it was like to become the first Pakistani bowler to take a hat-trick in a Twenty20 International?

FA: It’s difficult to describe my emotions during and after the hat-trick but it was an incredible moment. I had no idea until after the match that I was the first Pakistani cricketer to complete a hat-trick in a Twenty20 international. I still cannot believe I did it and it’s only when people mention it to me that I actually believe it happened. I wasn’t sure if I would be bowling in the latter stages of the innings but then I realised that Usman Shinwari was injured and that I would be required to bowl one more over towards the end of the innings. Initially I just wanted to keep it tight and restrict the opposition and just focus on dot balls. Shoaib Malik came up to me and told me to keep bowling the right length for that wicket. He asked me to bowl on a good length and not bowl short. For the first wicket I bowled a slower ball and Hasan Ali took a superb catch. For the second wicket I took on board the advice of Shoaib Malik and bowled a good length delivery. For the hat-trick delivery Imad Wasim told me to bowl a good length inswinger and the batsman will be leg before or bowled and that’s what happened as the batsman was out lbw.

Q: You speak about playing your natural game with the bat. What do you feel is your natural game?

FA: I feel that I am no mug with the bat and that I have an array of strokes that can work for me. I play positively and feel that I go out into the middle looking to be positive which is my natural game. I’m working on a few things regarding my batting and there are improvements required, but I’m happy with the progress that I am making with the bat. However I want to be more consistent with the bat and not just regarded as a lower-order hitter.

Q: You seem like a cool, calm and mature man when out on the field. Is that the real you?

FA: Yes, that’s the way I am. There is no drama, I don’t like big celebrations when I take a wicket and to me it’s all about going out there, performing and then looking ahead to the next match. The previous match is history as soon as it’s over. The way I think is that you look ahead to the next match and aim to improve yourself as soon as the previous match is over. -Pakpassion.net

Saj Sadiq

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